FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) -The city of Florence is looking to control every entity of future development in the city, instead of sharing that role with the county. If the city does indeed take over, it means a brand new department will take over the current vacant fourth floor of the City Center, new hires will take place, and staff will be in charge of planning, zoning, building codes and permits.
A special city council meeting was held Friday morning where council members unanimously voted not to renew the code enforcement contract with the county of Florence.
Ever since 2007, the county has been a part of that process - if someone wants to build within the city limits, the county also makes sure they comply with its building codes. The renewal deadline is approaching in six months, and council members are taking a stance to not renew that contract.
After the meeting the Florence city manager, Drew Griffen will formally write a letter to the county, because he said ultimately building inspection is vital to future growth.
"A developer can come in here, a developer, private citizen and not only can he talk to planning, zoning and land use issues he can also talk to the fire marshal, look at fire-related issues, go to our engineering department, talk about water sewer, utilities, storm water," Griffen added, making it a one stop shop for future builders to invest in Florence. Council members believe it is the most ideal action to take considering all the development going on, and what is on the horizon for the city.
Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said, "We're building parking decks when we've never had to, we're dealing with issues of urban development where we've never had to, we're dealing with issues of building permitting within an urban area with zero lot line development, which are unique."
Mayor Wukela said it was clear all members agreed. "The city and county recognize that we are different entities with different emphasis and different priorities and different concentrations. That's not a bad thing necessarily," he said.
He explained what is important is that the city and county have cooperated very well with one another, and from the city's perspective, it is clearly seen with the efforts with the Dr.'s Bruce and Lee Foundation, the Florence School District and Francis Marion University.
"Our council advised us, 'Listen, be aware you're getting ready to pass this deadline and if you do nothing, you automatically renew, which you may want to but you shouldn't do it unknowingly,'" Mayor Wukela said.
The current agreement requires builders in the city of Florence to first come to the city center planning officials, present design and plans, get approval from city ordinances and then go to the county, who will then continually make sure they comply with building codes..
Griffen added, "To be able to control that dialogue, and to be able to move forward in a very positive way and have that under a single umbrella. It's just simpler and collectively done in a more efficient way."
The city manager has until the first week of September to get the letter to the county, and a six month transition period will happen. From then, the formal start of the new building department with new staff will take shape at the City Center.